Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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"The breadsticks are just the right width."

Last Thursday the internet was thrown into chaos by the discovery that 85-year-old North Dakota resident Marilyn Hagerty had written a 485-word review of the Olive Garden for her hometown paper, the Grand Forks Herald. "The place is impressive," Hagerty wrote. "It's fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway."

What the internet didn't know is that Marilyn Hagerty isn't the only senior citizen to write a review of the new Olive Garden in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Mother Jones has obtained an exclusive copy of an unpublished manuscript written by Willard Mitt Romney of Belmont, Massachusetts; Wolfeboro, New Hampshire; and La Jolla, California. A notoriously picky eater, Mr. Romney's culinary adventures have gripped the nation during his presidential campaign, as pundits have puzzled over his refusal to eat the skin on fried chicken, and his love–hate relationship with catfish.

We've reproduced the review in its entirety:

Olive Garden is Great

By Mitt Romney

Let me tell you, this place is great. Is this where you folks normally eat? Only when you're broke, that's right. Heh.

Ann and I sat in a booth near the kitchen. There was a fireplace, a real old-fashioned hearth, in the corner, and a nice vase on the ledge. I love décor; napkins are great. The ice water was just the right temperature.

At length, I asked my server what she would recommend. She suggested chicken alfredo, and I was feeling a little rebellious so I ordered the chicken alfredo pizza. I love chicken—I love grilled chicken, I love broiled chicken, I love chicken scampi! Poultry is great. I told Ann, I said, "Did you know chickens came from dinosaurs?" And Ann just kind of shrugged. I said, "I'm being serious, Ann, not just a few of them, but olive them." Aha. Alright, okay.

The pizza comes with Italian cheeses, alfredo sauce, and scallions. I told our server—Maria, I think her name was—I said, "Margaret, hold the Italian cheeses, alfredo sauce, and scallions." Then I took my fork and removed the chicken from the pizza and discarded it, and then I cut the flatbread into manageable portions, and I trimmed the edges off the crust, and consumed them. Forks are my favorite utensil. I also like butter knives.

I've got to tell you, Ann and I went to a place in Tuscany last fall that was just like this. Well I shouldn't say it was exactly like this. That one was was on a veranda overlooking the Mediterranean and bordered on two sides by an actual olive garden. The servers were dressed in authentic Renaissance attire, and the food was prepared fresh by a 13th-generation Italian chef whose great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather sold olive oil to Michelangelo's grandson until they had a falling-out. I don't quite remember the full story; something about a goat. They had a fireplace too but this one was real, not electric, and burned only lumber that had been salvaged from Phoenician wrecks. The wood gave off a faint scent of mahogany mixed with sturgeon; I love logs. You should have seen the bill—we almost went baroque! Aha, okay, ahem.

I told Ann, I said, I don't usually eat fast food, but this is pretty good. Ann didn't think I should say that.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is a nationally recognized commentator on food and culture, and a Republican candidate for president. Follow him on Twitter @MittRomney.

Newt, We Hardly Knew Ye

Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign is over, whether he admits it or not.

"I'm going to be the nominee." —Newt Gingrich, December 1, 2011.

With Rick Santorum's double win in the Deep South states of Alabama and Mississippi (Mitt Romney placed third in both), the upstart ex-senator from Pennsylvania has undeniably claimed the throne as the non–Romney in the race. As Romney's camp keeps pointing out, the math remains on Romney's side. But these triumphs for the anti-contraception candidate will ensure that the GOP slog continues on, with Santorum jabbing and Romney bleeding. They also show that Newt Gingrich's campaign is dead—whether Gingrich knows it or not. At his not-such-a-concession speech on Tuesday night, he said the nation needs "a visionary leader" (meaning him), bashed the media for perpetuating the Romney-is-inevitable line, and vowed "we will continue to run a people's campaign." (There was no shout-out to casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who is keeping his campaign alive by funneling millions to the pro-Gingrich super-PAC.)

But if he's not whistling a victory tune in Dixie, he won't be doing so anyplace else. He can stay in the race—and utter increasingly extreme remarks in a desperate attempt to gain attention—but it's not premature to mark the end of Gingrich 2012. The only remaining question is how long he'll fight on as a zombie. (Romney might even encourage Gingrich to stay in the contest to prevent Santorum from consolidating the anti-Romney vote.) So here's a not-that-gauzy look back at a campaign that failed to rescue the United States at its darkest hour:

  • May 16: After Newt Gingrich blasts Rep. Paul Ryan's GOP budget plan as "social engineering," news cameras catch an Iowa voter asking Newt, "Why don't you get out before you make a bigger fool of yourself?" Gingrich subsequently claims he didn't say what he had said on national television—and blames the media
  • May 18: As the candidate continues to take fire, spokesman Rick Tyler pens a poetic rant prophesying a Gingrich triumph. He includes the phrase "out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich."
  • June 9: Gingrich's campaign implodes for the first time as top aides, including Tyler, depart en masse. Among other complaints, staffers cite Gingrich's perplexing decision to take a week off in the middle of the campaign to go on a Greek cruise with his wife, Callista.
  • June 22: The Washington Post reports that Gingrich had a $500,000 to $1 million line of credit at Tiffany and Co.
  • November 9: Gingrich, for a brief moment, emerges as a serious contender for the nomination. When CNBC's John Harwood asks Gingrich about his pseudo-lobbying work on behalf of Freddie Mac, the former speaker has a nifty response: "I offered advice—my advice as an historian."
  • November 19: Gingrich tells members of the Occupy Wall Street movement to "go get a job, right after you take a bath."
  • November 23: Mother Jones reports exclusively that young Newt Gingrich looked a lot like Dwight Schrute. The similarities don't end there.
  • November 29: Newt releases a novel. It's kind of a whitewash.
  • December 2: The National Journal quotes one senior Republican as saying, "Bigfoot dressed as a circus clown would have a better chance of beating President Obama than Newt Gingrich."
  • December 4: As he's being buried by a deluge of negative campaign ads, Gingrich expresses his dismay that politics has gotten so nasty.
  • December 10: Gingrich says he stopped supporting an individual mandate for health insurance in 1993. Video promptly surfaces of Gingrich calling for an individual mandate for health insurance in 2005. (Mother Jones had reported three weeks earlier that in a 2007 column Gingrich called on Congress to impose an individual mandate.)
  • December 15: Gingrich endorses personhood for zygotes.
  • December 15: Alleging that federal courts have become "grotesquely dictatorial, far too powerful" and "frankly, arrogant," Gingrich promises to wage an Andrew Jackson-style war against the judiciary branch if he's elected president. Four days later he suggests that if judges resist, he'll have them arrested.
  • January 6: Gingrich, reportedly worth $6.7 million, tells a voter in Laconia, New Hampshire, "I'm not rich."
  • January 22: In South Carolina, Gingrich goes to war against both food stamp recipients and Juan Williams of Fox News. He holds his final rally in the state aboard a decommissioned aircraft carrier.
  • January 23: In an effort to protect the United States from an onslaught of rolling R's, Gingrich (who publishes a Spanish-language website) promises to eliminate bilingual ballots—an apparent violation of the Voting Rights Acts. He attempts to court English-speaking Cuban-American voters by floating the idea of bombing Fidel Castro.
  • January 26: Newt promises to build a US colony on the moon if elected president, in apparent violation of international law.
  • February: Although he personally has never owned a gun and freaked out the one time he tried to shoot a pig, Gingrich mocks Obama by telling voters you can't fit a gun rack in a Chevy Volt. Video promptly surfaces of a Florida man fitting a gun rack in a Chevy Volt.
  • February 3: Gingrich blasts Washington elites who "live in high-rise apartment buildings writing for fancy newspapers in the middle of town after they ride the Metro." Footage promptly surfaces of Gingrich riding the Metro.
  • February 27: Gingrich tells supporters in Nashville that Andrew Jackson would have hated President Obama. We rate that statement mostly true.
  • February 28: Gingrich tells supporters in Chattanooga that Mitt Romney would have fired Christopher Columbus. We rate that statement true.
  • March 6: Gingrich tells voters he has a secret plan to win the war against $2.50/gallon gasoline. Gingrich mocks Obama for promoting algae as an alternative energy source. Video promptly surfaces of Newt Gingrich touting the benefits of algae as an alternative energy source.

What'd we miss? Leave your favorite memories in the comments.

Mitt Romney wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood! So went the spin being pushed out on Tuesday by President Obama's reelection campaign, which  blasted out an email directing reporters to a line in a speech Romney gave in Kirkwood Missouri: "Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that." The story went viral, lighting up Twitter and even sneaking its way onto CNN's election-night coverage. Coming at the end of a month spent talking about contraception and Komen, it was a fairly damning quote.

But that quote was missing some key context. Mitt Romney didn't say he wanted to get rid of Planned Parenthood, period. He included it in a list of items he wanted to defund at the federal level. Per KSDK St. Louis:

As for ways to reduce debt, he suggests a few cuts.

"The test is pretty simple. Is the program so critical, it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And on that basis of course you get rid of Obamacare, that's the easy one. Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that. The subsidy for Amtrak, I'd eliminate that. The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities," he said.

Which isn't to say he's off the hook. Planned Parenthood provides critical services to millions of American women, and without federal funding, it'd be forced to scale back those operations considerably. As a public policy matter, Romney's decisions woud have tremendous consequences, and family planning funding has the benefit of being extremely cost-effective. But it's also, at this point, fairly standard Republican posturing—and consistent with what Romney has been saying for a while. Though not consistent, it's worth recalling, with what he was saying back in 1994, when he attended a Planned Parenthood  fundraiser with his wife, Ann, a PP donor.

Update: Per HuffPo's Sam Stein, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom clarifies that Romney was referring specifically to funding.

Judge Roy Moore's "Rock," in 2005.

Since being thrown out of office in 2003 for refusing to take down a granite-monument to the Ten Commandments that he'd installed on the steps of the state supreme court, former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore has:

Now he wants his old job back. On Tuesday, Moore will vie with two other candidates for the Republican nomination for a spot on the Alabama supreme court. He will, the Mobile Press-Register reports, ride his horse to the polling station—a venture that's consistent with his theme of returning Alabama to the 19th century and comes just nine months after he broke several ribs in a riding accident (no word on whether it's the same horse).

The race has, understandably, not received as much attention as the GOP presidential primary at the top of the ballot, but judicial elections are serious business, and Moore's no ordinary candidate. His judicial philosophy of a Christian nation, divinely inspired, has endeared him to Teavangelicals and Tenth Amendment activists over the last few years—a not insignificant swath of the electorate in Alabama. (Tellingly, Moore's opponents have been reluctant to criticize Moore for his handling of the Ten Commandments incident on the campaign trail.)

So can he win? The Press-Regiser surveys the race and concludes that he stands a pretty good chance of making it the next round (if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, the top two advance to a special runoff election), but probably no further:

A handful of political experts surveyed last week agreed that Moore's committed base of support could ensure that he makes a runoff. But consensus was that he remains too controversial to win. 

"I think the conventional wisdom is Roy has his 30 percent of the vote he’s going to get regardless of who his opponent is," said John Carroll, the dean of the Cumberland School of Law at Birmingham's Samford University. "I think it's much more likely he could push one of the other two out of a runoff. I view this (primary) as a way to sort that out between the other two, which I think is unfortunate, but that’s the way politics works in Alabama."

In a runoff, Carroll said he is confident that either incumbent Chuck Malone or Mobile County Presiding Circuit Judge Charles Graddick would defeat Moore head-to-head.

Either way, I'd suggest you take 20 minutes today to read Josh Green's definitive profile of a recently defrocked Judge Moore cruising the state with his Ten Commandments rock in 2005.

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